Brite lights up Mt. Olive

Published 7:08 pm Saturday, April 30, 2016

By Matthew Hatfield


Former Nansemond River standout Dontrell Brite recently wrapped up his college basketball career at Mount Olive, a Division II program in North Carolina, and a stellar one it was.

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Brite finished with 1,624 points, 483 assists and 198 steals, placing him fourth or better in each category all-time at Mount Olive. During his junior year, he helped lead the Trojans to a school-record 31 victories and to the NCAA Elite Eight.

It all far exceeded the expectations that were set upon his arrival.

“Coming in, I knew the team had the potential to do big things,” Brite said. “It was really rocky my freshman year, and we didn’t have much chemistry, so I took that year to develop a jump shot and a scoring mentality.”

That mission was accomplished as the little fella known for dazzling ball-handling and playmaking skills moved over to shooting guard and more than delivered. Despite being under six feet tall, Brite led the squad in three-pointers made, with 73 as a senior, while also posting team highs of 16.7 points and 4.0 assists per game.

“His shot improved a lot,” said Mount Olive head coach Joey Higginbotham. “Dontrell has been the hardest-working kid in our program for four years. He really was dedicated, got in the weight room and got a lot stronger, so he’s not just a little guy with speed. He can play physical, too.”

One of the highlights of his career, though it came in a loss, was scoring 30 points as a sophomore in a near upset of East Carolina, a Division I program.

“I was talking to a close friend the night before, and we were saying it would be crazy if I scored 30 that game,” Brite recalled. “Once we walked into the locker room after the buzzer sounded, it hit me like this may have just changed the next two years of my life.”

Right around that time, Brite tweeted that he wouldn’t have traded his experience at Mount Olive to play for a Division I school.

“I remember that day and that tweet. Honestly, basketball is basketball, whichever level you play at,” he said.

“Going in a system where you fit in and playing with people who have the same goals as you, no matter the level, is what you should look for going into college sports. It was more about not letting my teammates down. That’s what really pushed me, since they look at me as a leader.”

Higginbotham’s respect and admiration for his player only grew when Brite didn’t leave for a higher level and continued to flourish.

“That does speak volumes to today’s age, because everybody’s got one foot out the door if they feel they can go bigger and better,” said Higginbotham, who grew up in Chesapeake and developed a close connection with the Brite family.

“A lot of people will do that and not have the accolades that he has, as well as the opportunity to play professional ball for money. His burst and quickness are at the highest level.”

The journey is not over for Brite. He hopes to land a contract to play professional basketball somewhere, even if it’s in a different country.

“Right now, I’m just in the process of talking to a lot of people, trying to take everything in,” Brite said. “I have to meet with a few agents when I make it back home. I have a lot of time to figure things out.”

Coach Ed Young has seen four of his Nansemond River alums — Andre Jones, Nick Wright, Quinton McDuffie and Ashton Moore — go on to play professional basketball overseas. He feels Brite will be the fifth.

“I know there’s not a lot of demand for 5’9” guards, but I think he’s a special 5’9” guard in terms of his quickness, ability to shoot the ball, get to the hole,” Young said. “And teams at all levels of basketball need a distributor. Dontrell is a guy that’s going to pass the ball, and his teammates love playing with him.”

“I really believe he can play somewhere overseas. I would even say that if a pro situation didn’t work out overseas that he ought to try out for the Globetrotters.”

Brite is set to graduate from Mount Olive in August with a degree in recreation and leisure studies.